Always a Crisis- Part 1

Always a Crisis- Part 1

Chase left our conversation abruptly. Across the plant floor, he had spotted a problem and rushed to make a correction. He was apologetic on his return. “Sorry, but this is why I called you today. I feel like a two armed octopus. There are eight things that need to happen, but I can only work on two problems at a time. Things get out of control about fifteen minutes into the day. And they never stop. At the end of the day, I look at my boss’ list of projects and the important things never seem to get worked on. There is always a crisis.” (Excerpt from Tom Foster management blog, 11/28/14)

Do you have an employee who is struggles with performing in their new role (either a new hire or an existing person who you gave a different responsibilities)?

How do you think “Chase” is feeling? Delighted this new position is overwhelming? Going home feeling a sense of accomplishment? Feeling like a success? Most likely Chase is disappointed and frustrated, as he wants to do a great job and feel competent.

After all, you thought he had what it takes to this this job well. And you hold the keys to finding out if this is a temporary training issue or a mis-match of his attributes to what is required to fill the role.

If you have a Chase on staff, I recommend evaluating for job fit through the following steps, and then jointly outlining a plan to give him the training, tools, and support to potential succeed.

If you both make an effort to develop his knowledge, skills, and competencies, he has a fair chance to do well.
Three main causes of performance gap, based on ability:

  • Person isn’t ready—needs more skill development
  • Person needs systems- may excel if given a structured process to plan and monitor work
  • Person isn’t a fit to job role- lacks key competencies that are difficult to develop in short term

Your Action Steps

  • Evaluate for job fit- identify the cause of gap
  • If coachable gaps, jointly create and implement a training action plan with Chase
  • Develop and coach on process and systems
  • Coach weekly towards improvement. If slow progress be patient and keep going. If there is no noticeable improvement or it is not lasting, more intervention is needed.

See next article for tips on a 90 day coaching plan for performance improvement “Always a Crisis— Part 2

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Employees “get” their purpose with cascading goals

Employees “get” their purpose with cascading goals

The Balanced Scorecard Institute calls it “cascading goals.”

I love this term, because you can visualize how the organization has a strategy and a big goal for the year, and important bits cascade down to departments (sales, customer service, production, even accounting). Then the department manager lets each employee know how they contribute to this department goal.

A great example I heard last year at a seminar was how a chain restaurant made corporate goals tangible and clearly understandable to every employee.

The general manager had a goal of 5% increase in revenue this year (to achieve the corporate goal of 5% increased revenue at same locations.) She then computed what this meant for the hostess, servers, kitchen staff, and even the “busboys.”

The Hostess knew that the team needed to reduce wait time (goal- less than 10 minutes at peak hours) so they did not lose diners due to a long line. She worked with the busboys to clear dishes so that diners left faster after eating (goal- 2 minutes) and clean up tables for a new party (within 2 minutes).

Servers knew that they needed to increase their average sale per diner 5%- which equaled an extra appetizer or dessert for every 3 tables. Servers also concentrated on expediting orders, response to requests (ketchup, please) and rushing food to tables to decrease overall customer time at the table.

I think you get the picture… when employees have simple Key Performance Indicators, they understand their purpose, the results to achieve, and the priority actions that would achieve those results.

Then the restaurant manager would share daily and weekly results (average sale per diner, average time per table, table wait time at peak, etc) so that employees could see if they were on track to meet monthly goals. A simple visual dashboard of these KPI was posted in the employee area, and reviewed with weekly and monthly update and celebration meetings.

Different shifts and days even had a friendly competition going, and servers would stop to ask their KPI results after a shift!

After a few months, revenue increased 10% over the prior year, and better yet, customer satisfaction scores also increased significantly.

After all, those KPI weren’t just good for the restaurant, but also what customers want: no wait for a table, faster and more responsive service, being offered the specials of the day.

Here is a great free guide from Gazelles & Rhythm Systems:
5 Tips All Executive Teams Must Know About KPIs

Learn more about how Expectations, goals and KPI dashboards work as part of your People Plan:
Clarifying Expectations section of our free resources

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

Half of managers fail at employee goal setting

Half of managers fail at employee goal setting

If your soccer team cannot see the goal post, and players don’t know what steps they need to take to score a point (can I use my hands?), you can’t expect to win many games. You can always hope the other team is more clueless.

Yet most managers (even at large employers) do not let employees know their expectations for performance or what results or goals are required for the individual to contribute to department and organizational success.

In fact, Towers Watson 2014 Talent Management and Rewards Study found that “Only half of the organizations participating in the say managers are effective at working with employees to set appropriate performance goals for individual performance.”

I have read other research that asked managers and employees to name the top 3 priorities in a job, and they agreed on only ONE! So most employees focus on two main results areas that are not the highest priority.

Basically, employees want to know what does a doing “good job” look like and how I will be measured– but they are usually left guessing.

And who is responsible? The manager….

The solution (simple to say, serious effort to do):

  • Get crystal clear on the activities, results and key performance indicators for each job
  • Share with employees and gain their understanding and agreement
  • Track, monitor, share results with employee
  • Coach performance (and process) improvements with each employee weekly, monthly, quarterly

Then you will often hear (to quote our retired Buffalo Sabres hockey commentator Rick Jeanneret), “he shoots – he scores!!!!”

Article- Employees get their purpose with cascading goals /a>

Learn more about how Expectations, goals and KPI dashboards work as part of your People Plan:
Clarifying Expectations section of our free resources

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at

What does a High Performer Look Like?

What does a High Performer Look Like?

“10 Competencies of the High Performer”

A great infographic image from management consulting firm CEB gives you a quick list of the 10 competencies in high performing players. (I have grouped them by categories.)


  • Works well on teams
  • Able to influence
  • Possesses self and organizational awareness

Work habits:

  • Agile learner
  • Able to prioritize

Decisions/ results:

  • Effective problem solver
  • Decision maker
  • Proactive


  • Technology savvy

Good judgment, team player, aware and influential, quick learner?

Who wouldn’t want these players on their team!

I think you will agree this list is on-target. The challenge is finding these people and then getting them to join your team…

The graphic also indicates 4 ways to be sure you are providing the “Care and Feeding” that high performers expect, or they will take their high demand skills elsewhere.

Learn more about how you can use the People Plan to find, build and reward your “Hi Performers” below.


Do you have a Scrooge leading your team?

Do you have a Scrooge leading your team?

Does “Scrooge” the manager still exist?

I love this holiday themed article by research group Zenger & Folkman. They research the key differences between high and low performing managers, and recently searched their database of 45,000 managers to identify the Scrooges.

They defined the Scrooge as a leader who is very task focused (drives for results) but has low consideration, and found that less than 1% of managers fit this profile (good news, unless you work there!). You know the type, like Danny Devito in the movie “Other People’s Money” running around yelling “back to work” to his frantic staff loitering outside their cubicles.

Despite the unpleasantness associated with this management style, is there any impact of driving for results while showing limited concern for employees’ needs and perceptions?

Actually, yes—how about the fact that new Scrooges have one-third fewer engaged employees than high impact managers!

The article published in Forbes doesn’t advocate for the opposite set of leadership behaviors (high consideration but low results orientation), as these managers are likeable but may not have high performing teams due to low accountability. This style often frustrates employees because poor performance is tolerated. In the Zenger research, employees with these types of “good guy” managers were only 3% more engaged than those that worked for the Scrooges (49% vs 46% engaged).

Decades of leadership studies have shown that the optimal leadership style focuses on both the task and the people – this achieves accountability and results through positive coaching. In the Zenger dataset, these manager’s style had a huge impact on increased employee engagement- 76% engaged employees (vs 46% for the low consideration manager who drives for results.)

To learn more about how to achieve this balance in your performance discussions, view our video “performance discussions” in the resource section of our free membership .

Link to the article:

Image courtesy of stockimages at

Too busy? 5 simple steps to delegate more

Too busy? 5 simple steps to delegate more

According to Toronto productivity consultant Mark Ellwood, managers spend 20% of their time on administrative and paperwork tasks that by definition do not advance business goals.

Some of these tasks are essential to your business success (for example, meeting with key customers or coaching performance). The rest are possible items that could be better completed by someone else.

An essential part of an effective People Plan is the Right Person doing the Right Things. And this includes YOU.

Are you spending your time on the Right Things? What could you accomplish for your organization if you “had more time?”

Here are the typical excuses we make NOT to delegate:

  • I am the only person who can do this,
  • I can’t trust that she will do it right (or she is not trained to do it),
  • last time he didn’t do it right,
  • she is too busy,
  • I don’t have time to train someone

The solution to all of these is to train someone to do this work, and then let them…

As a business owner or manager, you have knowledge and skills that make certain tasks essential for you to perform for the best interests of the company.  Your role is to determine and implement the business strategy and tactical goals through your people.

The majority of your time should ideally be spent on training, managing and motivating your people, and overseeing key action items to achieve company goals (from your short term action plans).

For example, you should be the person who reviews financial statements, budgets, and forecasts. You do NOT need to be the person who creates invoices, enters checks or goes to the bank to deposit checks.

We all have tasks that could be adequately performed by a staff member. Often these are administrative or routine in nature. If you spend 30 minutes analyzing your monthly financial statements by computing ratios or comparing to prior months, this is a task that your accounting person can complete and provide in a report with the monthly income statement.

What to delegate
To determine what tasks you can delegate, I highly recommend a simply time study. For one week, track your time in 15 minute increments. You can do this with a printed time chart (every 15 minutes on the left, one column for each day), a voice recorder, or an online time tracker (such as or even an I-phone app (such as timewerks).

It takes a bit of effort to remember to log your entries, but if you capture 75% of a week you have great data to analyze. If you can also track your phone calls this is additional information. One memory trick is to set a timer to ring every 15 minutes, and record your tasks since the last entry.

Your delegation action steps

  1. At the end of one week, calculate the time you spend on various work categories, and highlight those that are not essential for you to do. Also review your outgoing emails and phone calls for patterns.
  2. Divide your tasks into priority categories (a, b, c) or use the Steven Covey method of categorizing by urgent and important. Items that are not important are candidates for delegation, automation, or even elimination.

Typical items for delegation:

  • basic fact finding/ research
  • entry and collection of data and routine reports
  • basic analysis and problem solving suggestions
  • routine communication
  • sorting of emails and mail
  • tasks that you are not very good at or dislike
  • “enrichment” tasks that can give an employee the opportunity to learn and develop

3. Identify to whom to delegate

Once you have identified tasks to delegate, select an appropriate staff member to become responsible. Delegation can provide “stretch goals” to provide job enrichment to employees, so don’t always give items to the most experienced. If you have multiple task sets to delegate, share this among several staff members.

4. Train that person and the “inspect what you expect” until they are meeting expectations and you can be confident in the results without taking the work back.

5. Remember, you will have to invest a bit of time in the short run to reap the long term rewards of off-loading some of your tasks. You will also continue to be responsible to manage the process and review outcomes.